Roy Ayers said “the true beauty of music is that it connects people.” At the Bar MW Ranch we have our own version of that today. Our version is that moo-sic connected people.
We spent a good amount of time this weekend working with our heifer calves. Yesterday Russell, Morgan, Jordanna and Laurie worked together to critically assess these calves and decide which we would keep back to add to our breeding herd.
The work involved sorting the total group two different ways, potential keepers and those sent to be sold. The potential keepers were then sorted again and then again to ensure we had our best 70 to add to the cow herd. Those keepers were then put through the chute today, their calf tag was removed and their cow tag was installed.
My job in all of this was fairly easy. I have been laid up with a bad leg, which the doctor believes is the result of a bakers cyst. It has been painful and has meant that I was best suited to creating the tags we needed and prepping food for the crew.
Friday at lunch Russell sat and made a list of the names I should put on the tags. His list was based on some family brainstorming. Gina and Jill were a good part of this. We all love this years theme and have had something to add. Our 2023 breeding heifers are named after our favorite musicians and music groups.
The work of getting them installed was slow to start as we continue to figure out how to function without Jill here to run the cow computer. It turns out Morgan was the guy with the right answers to get us into business.
The highlight of the day was exactly what the opening quote suggested. Working with our moo-sic cows connected us to others. It meant we were blessed by Jordanna’s sunny spirit yesterday. It meant we had the chance to spend more time with cousin Laurie, we all value that. A few times over the weekend Russ has said to me, “aren’t we lucky to have cousin Laurie in our lives?” I couldn’t agree more. But the clincher today was that Laurie’s grandson Lennox joined us and was an enthusiastic worker from start to finish. It is always a joy to have kids join us. We gave him the jobs he could handle, he took them seriously and it made meal times more fun having him.
I am now sitting at the kitchen counter, Russ is sitting beside me making a playlist on Youtube music, it will comprise one song from each of the artists we added to our herd today. Its just for fun but maybe will keep their names in front of us. We have been texting a few friends to get reccomendations for which song to include and so a little more connecting has arisen from these heifers.
In fact as I write this Russ is trying to find a Milli Vanilli song to add to the list. It turns out we don’t know Milli’s work very well. Not sure we like much of what he has. If any reader has a suggestion for a Milli Vanilli song send it our way. I just asked Russ why he added it to our name list, he said he enjoyed hear Stompin’ Tom say at a concert, “no Milli Vanilli here boys!” at the point that he forgot words and had no track to cover up for him. Russ liked the way the Milli Vanilli name sounds. Its catchy? Well, by now, Russ has found Milli’s “Blame it on the Rain” song. Might work. I will add a link to the playlist in a future blog once Russ has it finished.
We are looking forward to calving season in 2024 when these heifers will deliver their first calves. The phone calls from the pasture will include news that The Beatles have calved, or maybe that Zach Bryan looks to be looking for a spot to calve, or maybe we will be congratulating Bonnie Tyler for delivering a backwards calf. There is bound to be hard stuff too but for years to come the names of musicians we know well and not so well will be rolling off our tongues and keeping life a little more interesting.
I just overheard a video being replayed that Russell made this morning. It was for our friends in Nova Scotia. Clear as a bell his morning weather report rang out in the house. His four words seemed like a good title for this blog, as good as any. It was frickin cold out today. We had a job to do and it could not be delayed. We all had to find our strength to confront that cold.
It was weaning day. Thats the point in the year when we separate the calves from their Mamas. We do that in preparation to send the steer calves to the Auction Mart. (The heifer calves go onto feed and stay with us for another six weeks or so before being sold). The sale of the steers creates one of the big paydays of our year. It has been an expensive year. We are thankful that payday is almost here. At the same time, as much as we look forward to the sale our anxiety level is high. Many things could go wrong in the varied steps leading up to it.
As I sit writing this now Russ and Morgan have gone to roping lessons, I am alone in our house, it is warm at my desk and we are feeling grateful for an excellent day, despite that frickin cold. I am actually really feeling short on words. That is not my usual. I think the pictures we were able to manage to grab will tell the tale better than I could.
Just in the nick of time all the cows are home. As I sit to start writing the words that go with the pictures I have received and assembled, the snow is flying, the wind is blowing, it is so wintery feeling. Down in the south east corner of the province we are the last to get hit with winters blow. We are thankful we had the time we did to get our fall work done up as much as possible. The biggest piece of that is getting our cows and their calves home from their fall and summer pastures.
Now that the cows are home we turn a definite corner. The work shifts towards ensuring the cows are fed and have access to water, and we start strategizing for the marketing part of our work. The season ahead holds more evening hours in the house, usually, we are definitely ready for that.
The last part of our cow chase work took place over this past Friday and Saturday. There are some nice pictures that tell the stories of the days.
Russ wasn’t sure how it would go to juggle two different moves in the same day. Both herds moved more quickly then he thought, the crew did great and both lunch and supper were served an hour before Russ had estimated. I’ll be honest, as the cook, I struggled with the changing details, it was good in the long haul, but I didn’t find the flexing too easy to do.
Following the break things got hard. Rain began and never quit until the ride was over. Tenley told Gina she has never been so cold on a Bayliss cow chase, which is saying quite a lot. The rain soaked through and challenged everyone. I got lunch set up for everyone in the house and left just as the crew was drawing near. I came across these cowboys coming home after getting the cows into the pasture. I was on my way into town to sing at a funeral. By the time I returned home everyone had eaten and most had gone home to find warm showers. It was hard to miss out on the meal, the chatter, and the words that might celebrate that the cows are all home, however the deceased was a friend of ours and I wanted to be there representing our family. Listening to the stories that came from lunch I sense that everyone was in survival mode and the celebratory mood would need to wait for another time.
Its November 7th, a few hours ago I reduced the table back down so it seats just six. Jill and I did up the last of the dishes lingering from the weekend. We watched two movies last night. The cows are home. We had a safe and successful season of moving them. The best thing, we had time with people we love so much, we met new people, we experienced teamwork and the sense that others have our back. I have been encouraged through the readers and comments with the blog. With a little rest in our bodies, and the sound of the wind just whistling around our house, our sense of gratitude rises to the surface in a very big way. We heard that one of our cowgirls cries for a half hour every year when everything is over. Russell says, “we know how she feels.”
The crew from the ranch was on the trail again this weekend. It was a very memorable one. It was really only one day of chasing, Saturday, but it was a long day, as we mostly expected, and it held lots of moments that we will be talking about for a long time. I have had a ton of pictures shared with me, the story of the day will emerge through the pictures.
The day started early, the crew was ready to leave the yard by 6:25am. Some of my family from Saskatoon were here for the weekend which made the weekend extra exciting for me. My brother in law Gary took this picture of the morning darkness.
During the day there were seven calves that needed to be caught and put in a trailer to be transported home. There were two reasons for this. As soon as we hit the trail it was discovered that we had some sick calves. Russ figures the snow and rain of earlier in the week was the reason that four of the calves had symptoms of pneumonia. We needed to rope them, push/drag/wrestle them into the trailer and then treat them. Russ had brought a small kit with usual medicines in it, just in case. This came in really handy. The next pictures show some of this action.
Now…….our cowgirl Becca took many great photos but a technological challenge meant that I just got them. I am tired. I can’t go back and tuck them in. So here is a glimpse of the day thru Becca’s lense and only just a tiny bit of captioning because you know almost everything already by this point anyways.
This picture features Emet in the foreground working the back of the herd. We are glad to see this picture, giving us the chance to say that his work on the crew has developed quickly this year. Gina tells me that twice yesterday she said to herself, “thank goodness for Emet.” Being in the right place at the right time doing the right thing is everything.
These are Becca’s kids Peyton and Matthew. They were great crew members and super cute. Their personalities made for memorable conversations, they really made us smile.
If you will indulge me I am going to play pretend for a moment or two. I am in this moment an on location reporter. “This is Kathy Kyle coming to you from the Cow Dog Lounge at the Bar MW Ranch.”
While I lounge on a sectional couch in the pole shed our team is right beside me putting a small herd through the chute.
It is raining outside, it is comfortable (only one layer of clothing is about perfect), the smell of a branding iron lingers in the air. The fact that I am blogging is a result of the fact that once again our team has been added to by friends. Carvell is doing my job and I am here with my laptop, close enough to feel connected to the action but free to do one of the things I love, write.
It has been many days since I felt free to linger on the blog. Here is a quick check-in about how things are going. The summary word is “well.” Calving has not been very dramatic since our big blizzards. Most cows are doing what they are supposed to do. Russ has been able to manage things so that the troubles that do arise get worked out. With seven sets of twins born we have been able to offset some of the inevitable losses that happen. While April was absolutely abuzz with the births happening amid whatever weather was being dished up, it seems May has been consumed by practical jobs that need to happen. By the end of today we will have about 70% of our cow calf pairs through the chute (tagged, immunized, castrated, branded, etc.) and at their summer pastures. That is a super big deal. We had the vet team here yesterday to semen test our bulls. Our bulls came through winter okay, one failed his test (our bull named Cheeseball), a few need retesting, but overall, we are set for the breeding season. Two days of the last week have seen parts of our ranch team helping different neighbors with their spring work. That is important to us. But the really big deal in our hearts right now is that our ranch family grew in number and depth this week.
Last Saturday we had a family from Halifax, Nova Scotia pull into our driveway. They had spent their day getting to the Regina airport and then to the ranch. We had never laid eyes on each other before. However, due to the wonder of Facebook and Messenger and this blog, we all had a darn good sense of each other. So it was that our family looked forward to their visit, despite the fact that strictly speaking we were entertaining strangers.
We feel very lucky. Everything we sensed through our social media interactions is true. Carvell, Lynette and their daughter Izzy were very easily folded into the work and the rhythms of our daily life and have brought much joy our way not to mention an incredible amount of help with getting our spring work done.
For me personally a visit like we have had has many dimensions. Part of it is struggle, only because when people dwell among you for a stretch they get to see you, really see you. The first few days of the visit seemed chaotic on the ranch. I was embarrassed at what we were asking our company to go through. Then we realized they were very tough and definitely up for the challenge. I felt embarassed by how much I do for my kids that they can do for themselves. Lynette assured me she saw what was at play. I settled down and the feeling of needing to hide a few things passed.
The other thing is that I have found with more hands on deck with ranch work I have been freed to focus on things that I need to do and want to do well as we shared our days. So, I have been baking a lot, taking good care of my kitchen, getting caught up on laundry and paperwork. For me, one of the ultimate gifts I can be given in life is being uninterrupted. Whether that is when I am speaking or getting things done. Ranch life does not lend itself to being uninterrupted. Interruption is the name of the game. I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say this impacts my spirit both for good and not. The freedom to focus in my kitchen was a gift that came from hosting visitors with such a desire to learn, see and work and make sure I felt appreciated for the food I created.
Another great thing about this time shared with new friends is that we have been spreading the goodness around. Laurie and Dawson were with us a couple times this week and therefore got to meet the Fentons. It made me very happy. This feeling of happiness made me realize we are really proud of all the people we are sharing our days with and its great to introduce them to one another. This happened again when the Fentons helped us help our neighbors. This just means more and more layers of connection and knowing. When we see these neighbors in the days ahead we might find ourselves talking about how those Fentons are doing and we will all care about who we are talking about. Another layer of making connections arose from the fact that Morgan has been training a Gilliland family horse. They came riding with us on Wednesday to use the horse and see Morgan’s progress. They met the Fentons. Earlier that day Russ and I had attended the funeral of an amazing woman who is part of our ranch family. We have rented her pasture for the entirety of Russell’s life. To honor her we spent the evening of her funeral day riding her beautiful river pasture and we gave thanks for her life as we prayed before enjoying a tailgate picnic supper. The world feels more stable and secure when the ties that bind us weave in multiple layers.
I think there are about five calves left to go through the chute, its getting quiet here in the pole shed, the team seems to be doing well and keeping their spirits up. I don’t know if its just me, but I know I am avoiding the thought that we have to say good-bye tomorrow. Carvell, Lynette and Izzy feel like family and its hard to think that four and almost five provinces are going to soon separate us. I am always aware of my losses. Its just a big part of my story. I do well to remember that all the hard good-byes can be softened by the truth that there are many wonderful people in the world and it’s a gift when they come your way. We have been blessed.
I am giving myself 25 minutes to create this blog. What gets done gets done and then I hit publish.
Here at the ranch we are doing what we always do at this point in May and thats put herds of cows and calves through the working chute. This allows us to give vitamins, vaccines, tag the calves, replace lost tags on the cows and castrate the bull calves. Its a big chunk of work and it takes a crew. I should be out there but I am not because Dawson was able to come today and do my job. That is a lifesaver today in particular, I have a funeral to conduct tomorrow, a graduation to attend later today and tags to make. Not to mention feeding this crew. You might think, “why are you writing a blog?” I just have to. I have the fever to. But there is a time limit set.
Okay….maybe I have the fever because last night a friend we had not seen in a long time came for tea. As she stepped in the door she said, “I came because I just want to encourage you.” How interesting we humans are, how quickly old tapes and things rise to the surface, because you know what rose up in me when I heard that? I caught myself thinking, “oh great, someone is here to tell me what I need to do better at.” That wasn’t at all what our friend was here to share. However, I have had impacting experiences being told things that start with the words, “I just want to encourage you…….”, followed by some message to do things differently, worry less, have more faith, exercise more, …..some message that essentially said, “you are not enough.” But that is not what I heard last night, last night I heard, “your blog makes a difference, I want to encourage you to keep it up” and there was a bit more than that. But you get the drift. So, fuelled up I am here to share about this day.
There is so much stirring within.
I am proud of our crew. We had Morgan’s friend Griff with us yesterday and we got 80 pairs handled at the chute. I was not needed hands on, we had such great help, so I was able to cook and make tags and do the essentials in the house.
I am proud of Gina. More about that in the pictures.
I am sad. The details of this past week have stirred grief.
I am angry. I am angry at Covid. Tomorrow I do the first funeral I have had to do for a person who died of Covid. Two of my sisters were diagnosed with it this week. I saw them last weekend. So we have been wearing masks and testing daily. I believe I missed it this time.
I am hyper. I made the best pot of coffee this morning. It was nuclear fuel in my body. Russ just called me to tell me a story from the chute. We had a cow that needed to be chased down, details elude me. Anyways, the story was a bit epic, a should to shoulder race which Russ won and with great delight he told me, “when I looked at her tag Kathy, you know who she was?!? Streak! Kathy, I outran the streak!!!” I was suitably impressed! We agreed that coffee had weaved magic in us.
Some pictures to share!
Calving is perking along, a pretty normal set of days and events are the reality right now. This is good timing. I hope your weekend is going the way you need it to. Blessings to you.
We have an interesting set of birth announcements to share tonight. It was quite a day and the way some details came together has us smiling.
It was exciting for Russ to check the heifers this morning and learn that “Jill” had her calf early on, she was very successful.
Yesterday morning the check of the cows revealed that “Morgan” had calved and all was well. Later this morning Russ reported that “CCPA” had calved. Thats a cow we named in honor of Gina’s school. That cow and calf seem to be doing well. By mid afternoon the big news of the day was in…..Kathy had calved and birthed twins! How odd that so many of our cows named after immediate family all did their work in such a short time.
All of this follows on the heels of the birth video that Jill captured last week, Georgie our heifer birthing her first calf. Georgie was my Mom’s name.
Another birth story from today is that our cow named “Flash” calved this morning and gave us twins. Two sets of twins in one day is quite something for us. The funny thing is that yesterday Jill spotted a child’s “Flash” superhero tshirt at the church clothing sale. She bought it for Coffee dog to wear. She has the same shirt. So this morning Coffee was running around the ranch in her Flash t shirt and Flash the cow gave us twins. A fun part of the day.
To top it all off, this morning Russ discovered that our cow “Sunflower” had a calf coming backwards. I had to be in town early on and could offer no assistance. Morg and Jill were in school. Ron was elsewhere. Russ was on his own. He got that cow to the working chute in the calving pasture and was able to deliver what was a huge calf, safely. It is very difficult to pull a backwards facing calf. Russ is currently describing the series of events that allowed this safe delivery to happen. It was epic and I am too tired to describe every step for you. How about I just brag for a second? My husband is one heck of a cattle man.
Lots of our cows named after my friends calved also in the last few days, it really has been a time for smiling at the birth announcement texts that come. Tanya, Sharon, Beth, Ali, Sandy, Peter, Marion, Trisha, Diane and Kristen have all given us calves in these days.
After so much struggle in the posts of last week, and much of my work time in the last 24 hours spent paying bills (not my interest or comfort zone) it is great to have these births to smile about!
Its Sunday morning and I’m hoping to get this all put together before Church. Russ and Morgan are out doing the morning check of the herd. We can’t help but compare how it is this morning to last Sunday when the storm had wreaked the worst of its havoc and we were breathlessly trying to figure out how bad things were. This morning there is some wind, the sky is cloudless, the birds are singing. Russ called to tell me, “do you know that things are just Ducky in the calving pasture?” I was a bit dense at the time, hardly awake, so I didn’t catch on that he was telling me that our cow named “Ducky” had calved. He is not yet done the morning check so this number could grow but in the last 48 hours we have had 52 calves (including a set of twins). Special cows that calved this weekend include Morgan, Tanya, Marion, Fudge and Cowabunga). We are deeply grateful that this is not how it was last weekend. This is as intense as it will get for us.
Earlier in the week, in a quiet few hours at the cottage, while keeping the home fires burning there I got started on this post. It is a glimpse of some of what we saw and experienced calving during a storm and power outage. The pictures span from Saturday until Tuesday and are different than the immediate storm update posts that were offered Saturday and Sunday. There is another couple of stories to tell yet. But this is plenty long.
If you made it this far, good job, it has not been an easy read perhaps. I have one more thing to share, a set of pictures which is just for fun really, but at the same time it is kind’ve interesting. There are 8 pictures of total porch chaos as the crew gets ready to head out for Saturday afternoon. At this point clothes soaked by rain had been almost dried in the dryer, rain had turned to sleet and the nastiest of the weather was approaching. There were serious layers being pulled on, physical and mental preparations being made for what was ahead I do believe. Four minutes pass during these 8 pictures while all that happens is people getting dressed and dogs getting excited.
We have been able to charge our phones enough that I am glad to do an update on this day.
What started off as so scary turned out really quite well. Our herd is doing okay, the shelter in the calving yard worked well enough that the incredibly gusty wind was not able to create the devastation it could of whenn combined with the snow. So….our work was not overwhelming. The sun came out this afternoon changing the day entirely. Our house is currently 73 degrees due to the power of the sun. We are not shivering, 26 hours into this power outage. The wind has finally settled. Jill persevered with emptying the sump hole until the generator got switched from watering the cows and horses to running sewer and septic pumps. We avoided basement disaster so far with that. Things feel ENTIRELY different at 8:30pm than they did at 5:30am. We are all so profoundly grateful. It kindv’e feels Iike a miracle.